Aristotle, Rousseau, and Mill’s Opinion of the Iraq War – Humanities Essay
The Iraq war is began in 2002 and still continues today. The editorial from The Economist, 26 November 2005, explains why American soldiers should stay in Iraq. The
author explains how Americans are helping and people do not see or share Pres. Bush’s vision. His vision is for one day to have democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East. The article states, “The cost to America of staying in Iraq may be high, but the cost of retreat would be higher” (11). What does the author mean in this statement? He means that the money cost may be high now, but if America retreats, the moral cost and reputation will be higher. America will be seen as weak. America has been in it for too long to quit.
What do philosophers such as Aristotle, Rousseau, and Mill have to say about these issues? Although these philosophers have been dead for a long time, what their philosophy on life and government still holds true today. Aristotle believes that the act of the state isn’t the state, but its government. Citizens are what make up the state. They select people to run it, whether it is a council of elders, or a larger democratic government, or even a monarchy. Citizens are people of the state, not resident aliens, or slaves. They have more rights than people who are not citizens. Do you have to hold an office in the government to be a citizen? The answer is no. Aristotle says if they are not resident aliens or foreigners, they are citizens. Citizens do not have to hold an office. They can contribute to the state is other ways. It is a symbiotic relationship.
In Iraq’s case, they had a tyrannical form of government. Saddam Hussein basically ruled the country, although he had a cabinet who would advise him what to do and how to handle situations. The relationship between the citizens and the state is that the citizens live in fear of the state. The citizens have no rights and the result of outspoken comments against the government is punishable by death. It does not follow what Aristotle says. The purpose for American forces in Iraq is to make things better for the people.
Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote the social contract. He believes that man is good and is free from tyrannical government. He states that the citizens of the state have a non-verbal agreement. They have to obey the laws of the country. In turn, the state must protect the people. The citizens agree to pay their taxes, abide by the laws, and support the government. Rousseau discusses the will. What is “the will”? It is an opinion or feeling someone gets and does something to change it. The general will of the people is the overall feeling of the government from the people. He explains that if the people are unhappy with a decision the government made, they can try to reverse, change, or make a friendly amendment to the decision. Looking at the will at a smaller scale, individual wills are different from one another and differs from the general will. The individual person has different interests to fit his needs.
Looking at Iraq before the war, the citizens could not speak. The government does not tolerate difference of opinion. The citizens could not have a general will. It is difficult to decipher what the actual will is. The citizens had to be forced into having a positive outlook on the government. They would be killed if their opinion was different. They may have individual wills because the government or anybody else can not put a stop to individual thinking. What the government can do is program or brainwash the people into thinking what they are doing is right. It hinders free thinking but it may not stop it. While the war is being fought, the general will is different in Iraq. There are groups of people that are happy with the Americans being in Iraq. In contracts, there are militants who don’t want Americans in Iraq and they go and do suicide bombings or attacks. How about the will of the people at home in America? Many people believe the war is justified and support the government in any action. Other people believe that the government is wrong and protest the war. That is the beauty about free thinking. In America, two general wills are at work. The government does not put a stop to it because this country is founded on freedom ideals. Our country’s constitution is a social contract. They are the laws of the land. Citizens must obey these laws or the police, or law enforcers, must take action. Social contracts are designed to have a good relationship with the government, while it protects them. It makes the government and its citizens to work together.
John Stuart Mill explains his philosophy on liberty. He believed in utilitarianism. Mill often felt that everything’s worth is base on the usefulness. He wanted man to work for the happiness for the greatest amount of people. He believes that achieving the greatest happiness causes a moral end. Mill believes that having freedom of opinion and expression is essential for any society to flourish and to have happiness. It is important because the people can discuss their own thoughts and feeling to an issue. It provokes human thought process and independent thinking. People need to have independent thoughts. How must one learn from another if all of their thoughts and feelings were the same? Having the freedom of expression and expressing them, either by publishing them or acting them out, will have a snowball effect. Once one person does it, and then others will do it, and then a mass amount of people will begin to do it. Mill says it would be immoral to suppress the truth. The only reason they would do that would be if the suppressor wants to hide the truth. Mill believes in the liberty of people’s thoughts and expression, and press.
These philosophers have their own ideas on a working society. Is it perfect? Maybe not, but they want to have a society not ruled by a tyrannical government. Different countries have different societies. Their nations were built on different ideas. We can apply Mill’s standard to other nations. It is important to have a good relationship between the citizen and the state. Opinions play a big role in the actions of the state. For example, President Bush’s opinion in the Iraq war was that America should be there fighting Saddam and the terrorists. Opinions are made to be debated upon. Although Bush needed approval, it was still his opinion and decision to go fight in Iraq. I would say that Aristotle would disagree because there is no symbiotic relationship with this decision about the war. Ideas, such as health care, social security, etc, Aristotle would agree with because the citizens benefit from the state. The decision of the war is not. Rousseau would agree because if it is the general will of the people to go to war, then the state will go to war. If I were the president, and if I wanted to fight in Iraq that was justified, then I would make that decision. The people will support the decision, unless it is entirely wrong. If the general will is much greater than my personal will, I would have to set aside my personal goals to make the citizens happy. Mill will agree with the people. He believed in freedom of speech and press. The citizens should not be silenced. Mill encourages people to stand up for what they believe in. Mill would agree with me if I set aside what I wanted and did what was for the good of the people. Mill believes in achieving a greater will to have a moral end. Everything that these philosophers base their ideas on is morality. If everyone followed their morals, we would have a better society.